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Semin Radiat Oncol. 2008 Jan;18(1):2-6.

Active surveillance for favorable risk prostate cancer: what are the results, and how safe is it?

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Division of Urology, University of Toronto, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, 2075 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Active surveillance for favorable risk prostate cancer has become increasingly popular in populations in which prostate cancer screening is widespread because of evidence that prostate cancer screening results in the detection of disease that is not clinically significant in many patients (ie, untreated, would not pose a threat to health). The approach is supported by data showing that patients who fall into the category of clinically insignificant disease can be identified with reasonable accuracy and that patients who are initially classified as low risk who reclassify over time as higher risk and are treated radically are still cured in most cases. This means (1) identifying patients who have a low likelihood of disease progression during their lifetime based on clinical and pathologic features of the disease and patient age and comorbidity, (2) close monitoring over time, (3) reasonable criteria for intervention that will both identify more aggressive disease in a timely fashion and not result in excessive treatment, and (4) meeting the communication challenge to reduce the psychological burden of living with untreated cancer. The results of active surveillance, the criteria for patient selection, and the appropriate triggers for intervention are reviewed.

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